What's the best mobile hotspot device for international travel?

#1

Browsing this forum a lot, I learned that the best option for mobile data is buying a local SIM card in pretty much every country I go to. Ok, that’s manageable.

Now I was wondering which mobile hotspot to buy, because I will have more devices with me that I want to connect to the Internet, and my girlfriend will have even more devices with her to connect, too.

When I was looking at just one manufacturer’s offerings, I’m already overwhelmed by the complexity of options.

Should I just use my main mobile phone’s hotspot feature for this?
Should I get a separate mobile hotspot device for that? Which one? Any recommendations?
How do you do this?

#2

i just use my phone as a hotspot.

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#3

Same here, I just use my Android phone (Nexus 5). Since personal hotspot uses battery life I also carry an external battery pack & plug that into the phone while it’s on hotspot.

I had problems getting hotspot working on iPhone because one of my carriers had blocked tethering / hotspot, and somehow that locked down the phone even for other carriers when I switched SIMs (despite it being an unlocked iPhone bought outright), but that was back in the iPhone 4 / iOS 7 days. It’s probably fixed now.

#4

I have separate hotspot because my phone is pretty basic to be used as an international device (doesn’t support all the UMTS bands, LTE, CDMA etc.). I went with Pantech MHS291LVW from Verizon (I got it unlocked here in Ukraine) which gives around 10 hours of battery life and up to 5 connected devices. It works great with UMTS and CDMA but I wish it supported more of the LTE bands. LTE is just crazy, each country uses different sets of frequencies so if you go with a device make sure it does support as much as possible (also, some Qualcomm processors do support most of the LTE frequencies but are locked by the network provider, so in theory they could be unlocked, but my opinion, better buy something ready made). So, in my opinion really the biggest plus is battery life of a pocket hotspot, otherwise you could use your phone as well.

p.s. another plus would be if you get a device that supports multiple SIM cards and can do failover between networks. that one would be great to have but I’ve never seen one less than 2kg in weight :smiley:

#5

You have a good project, opensource, based on OpenWRT called http://www.ofmodemsandmen.com/ , you can use a cheap usb powered router (TP-Link MR-3020 , or one from the compatibility list ) with one or two 4G USB Modem , like the ZTE MF821D (you can find them for cheap ). If you use 2 different operators , you will have a really stable connection, because the router will switch to the best connection automatically, I was using that for a while in Bali, it’s really stable.

The cool thing with the ZTE modem is you can add external antenna (you need 2 per modem) , if you go to some low coverage areas !

If you need more info I can help, but it’s quite easy to configure with one or two modem !

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#6

I have had by far the best speed, coverage and reliability in different (european) countries with Huawei E5786 LTE. We have the whole family hanging in the wifi at the same time. 12 devices. Huawei handles it all very well all day long. It is a bit pricey (€200+) but for us well worth of the money spent. And it is incredibly small for that power. But, I must say that iPhone works the best with all the operators worldwide. It is usually the fastest and works without any complications. So it is my second option.

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#7

Yeah, external antenna is another good thing about MiFi vs phone. I very often use 3G 2100 Mhz 12 dB antenna.

#8

The iPhone is a great hotspot device. I believe it let’s you connect up to 5 devices to wifi, plus one for usb and one for bluetooth, I think. I haven’t tried to max it out. I usually just connect my laptop via USB so it charges the iPhone at the same time. Make sure you get the biggest data plan available. I got $25 for 25 GBs out here in Cambodia on Smart.